Seven Kings

Seven Kings, Redbridge

A ‘people’s suburb’, as its developer described it, in eastern Ilford

Hidden London: Mead's Lane, Seven Kings, by David Howard

This place prob­a­bly began its exis­tence as Seofecin­gas, mean­ing ‘set­tle­ment of Seofe­ca’s peo­ple’. Seofe­ca may (at best) have been a local Sax­on chief.

In 1285 the spelling was ren­dered as Sevekyn­gges – and it must have been around this time that some­one noticed a resem­blance to the words ‘Sev­en Kings’. All sub­se­quent appear­ances of the place’s name employed this folksy cor­rup­tion, lat­er embroi­dered with a whim­si­cal sto­ry that its iden­ti­ty hon­oured an occa­sion when sev­en roy­al hunts­men paused here at a clear­ing in Hain­ault For­est, while their hors­es drank from a stream.

Sev­en Kings – or at least the part north of the High Road with the street plan that looks like an egg slicer – has been called “the town built in a year.” This was 1898–9, when local devel­op­er Cameron Cor­bett laid out an estate of good qual­i­ty hous­es that clerks and low­er grade civ­il ser­vants could afford.

The Cauliflower, copyright Robin Webster
The Cau­li­flower,* 553 High Road

Because of its rapid growth and rel­a­tive inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty the new sub­urb was nick­named Klondike by its first res­i­dents, but a sta­tion was quick­ly opened. With Cor­bett adding the May­field estate to the south and Down­shall to the north, Sev­en Kings soon had 10,000 inhab­i­tants.

Shown in the pho­to­graph on the right,* the grade-II list­ed Cau­li­flower Hotel opened in 1900 on the site of an ear­li­er pub­lic house. Eng­lish Her­itage describes it as “a good exam­ple of the opu­lent late-19th-cen­tu­ry gin palace style with an impos­ing street pres­ence … designed in a free Flemish/Jacobean style.”

The attrac­tive Sev­en Kings bun­ga­low estate of the 1920s and 1930s is now a con­ser­va­tion area.

In 1991 Red­bridge coun­cil tried to con­vert Sev­en Kings Park into a new ceme­tery, but was dis­suad­ed by a 10,000-signature peti­tion.

Like neigh­bour­ing parts of Ilford, Sev­en Kings has become pop­u­lar with Asian fam­i­lies. At the 2011 cen­sus 25 per cent of res­i­dents were of Indi­an her­itage, 16 per cent white British, 14 per cent Pak­istani, 9 per cent Bangladeshi, 5 per cent black African and 4 per cent black Caribbean. Three-quar­ters of homes here are own­er-occu­pied.

At Tate Britain, the artist Michael Landy created a full-size replica of his parents’ house at 62 Kingswood Road, on the Seven Kings/Goodmayes border. The installation, entitled Semi-detached, was demolished after the six-month show in 2004.

Postcode area: Ilford, IG3
Population: 15,164 (2011 census, a 27 per cent increase on 2011)
Station: TfL Rail (zone 4)
Further reading: Peter Foley, Seven Kings and Goodmayes: Origins and Early Development, Heptarchy [note the pun], 1993


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* The picture of Mead’s Lane at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Howard, and the picture of The Cauliflower is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Robin Webster, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
† In the Essex eyre of 1285, veredictum of Becontree hundred, to the best of Hidden London’s knowledge